Opposing Income Inequality Is the New Black

-->
elections, Mittens, Obama Administration, Republican Party

It was funny enough when Rick Santorum tried to rebrand himself as an economic populist. But you’ll never guess who’s getting on the “we are the 99 percent” bandwagon. Well, unless you’ve already read this.

Mitt Romney, sudden champion of Americans trying to make ends meet — it’s coming off to progressives and veterans of Obama’s winning re-election campaign as a little too rich.

The 2012 Republican nominee’s sudden return to presidential politics already had them dusting off old attack lines. His reinvention Friday night as an anti-poverty warrior has them in a frenzy of excitement, even glee at what they see as the Democratic Party’s stroke of good luck.

Yes, children, Mittens now fancies himself to be the Savior of the Downtrodden. This is something like making Ronald McDonald the poster boy for heart-healthy diets.
His message, or as much as I can glean from news stories, is this:
  • Mittens really cares about poor people. He knows this because his wife Ann says so.
“She knows my heart in a way that few people do,” he said. “She’s seen me not just as a business guy and a political guy, but for over 10 years as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations… She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is.”
  • Liberal policies haven’t worked. Of course they haven’t actually been tried for decades because they’ve been obstructed by conservatives, but let’s not quibble. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, and this must be Obama’s fault. The fact that the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer since the Reagan Administration is water under the bridge.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

  •  Mittens has a plan, something bold and original that hasn’t been done before. He explained to Republican National Committee members,
“The only policies that will reach into the hearts of the American people and pull people out of poverty and break the cycle of poverty are Republican principles, conservative principles,” Romney said to no applause from the Republican crowd.
I’m sure they forgot to applaud because they were struck numb by the boldness of Romney’s plan. And maybe he could get Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as an economic policy adviser.

Snark aside, it appears income inequality is going to be a big issue in 2016. Hillary Clinton also has been making noise about it and trying to tie herself to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a long-time friend and alleged progressive. Opposing income inequality is the new black.

But hearing it from Romney, de Blasio said, is a sign that income inequality has really arrived as the defining issue of the 2016 campaign.

“This is on the minds of more and more people around the country, because income inequality is basically the touchstone of what we’re dealing with right now,” de Blasio said. “It is very telling that a guy who’s trying to find his way back to political relevance will grab onto it.”

It is telling, and it suggests the 2016 election campaigns will be a ton of fun. But if we end up with a HRC-Jeb Bush general election choice the terrorists will have won.
Share
13 Comments

The Week in Bullying

-->
Obama Administration

Our fellow citizens at Texas Open Carry went to Austin to lobby their legislators. They want a bill passed that will allow open carry of handguns without a permit, because I guess standing in line at Dunkin Donuts with a 10-pound assault rifle must be making their little arms tired, and permits are so oppressive. So they went to Austin and lobbied. Someone might have explained to them that “lobbying” doesn’t normally involve threats and personal insults.

One elected representative who told the citizens that he did not intend to vote for the bill was accused of tyranny and informed he would be replaced.  The elected representative, Poncho Nevárez, had to call security to get the lobbying citizens out of his office. I’m not sure this crew grasps the subtleties of, well, what elected representatives are.

Wonkette also has a transcript.  The lobbyists also expressed their enthusiasm for deadly weapons by setting up a 3D printing thingie for making guns on the Statehouse steps.

But today’s armed rally, where members of Come and Take It Texas (CATITX) are manufacturing firearms on the statehouse steps using “The Ghost Gunner,” might trump even the most bizarre.

CATITX bought the very first Ghost Gunner, a $1,500 CNC machine—or computer controlled tool manufacturer—which can build the metal body of an AR-15 rifle with no serial number (meaning no background check and no method of tracking should a crime be committed with the firearm). To it, a builder can add necessary components like a barrel and trigger for a fully functional weapon. At the moment, the machine is legal, and the extra parts are not regulated in the U.S., as long as a maker doesn’t plan on selling his creation.

Apparently Rep. Nevárez wasn’t the only legislator who was alarmed by the gun, um, enthusiasts, and on Wednesday the Texas House approved rules that would allow legislators to install panic buttons in their offices and eject hostile visitors from their offices.  See also Digby.

At the other end of the scale, a new poll out from Quinnipiac found that the NYPD has not been winning hearts and minds of late. Josh Marshall writes,

New York City voters disapprove of police officers turning their backs on the Mayor at police funerals by 69% to 27%. 77% think police union President Pay Lynch’s “blood on his hands” remarks were “too extreme” and no racial or gender subset of the population considers the comments “appropriate.”

Though there are big differences across the city’s racial groups 47% of New Yorkers say de Blasio’s actions since he began his run for Mayor show he supports the city’s police. 37% say the opposite.

Finally 52% of New Yorkers (versus 38%) says police discipline has broken down.

Even better, earlier this week there were reports a meeting of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association nearly turned into a riot when members yelled down PBA President Patrick Lynch, telling him they didn’t need an apology from Mayor de Blasio.

“This is what my members want!” a cop yelled near the end of the raucous meeting. “They want more cars, better vests, more manpower!”

And then the cop — one of about 350 in attendance — took a verbal jab at Lynch, who has called on de Blasio to offer a mea culpa for his continued lack of support for police.

“They don’t want an apology,” he said.

Maybe the PBA members would do New York a favor and elect a new President.

Share
9 Comments

It’s the Derp, Stupid

-->
Terrorism

A couple of articles from Foreign Policy that are worth reading:

It’s the Occupation, Stupid: Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.

In the decade since 9/11, the United States has conquered and occupied two large Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), compelled a huge Muslim army to root out a terrorist sanctuary (Pakistan), deployed thousands of Special Forces troops to numerous Muslim countries (Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, etc.), imprisoned hundreds of Muslims without recourse, and waged a massive war of ideas involving Muslim clerics to denounce violence and new institutions to bring Western norms to Muslim countries. Yet Americans still seem strangely mystified as to why some Muslims might be angry about this situation.

Earlier this week a much-linked-to article by Chris Hedges blamed poverty, but I don’t buy that entirely. No doubt it’s a factor in recruiting the discontented, but the people actually engaged in terrorism often aren’t that poor. I think poverty is a supporting factor, not the main cause.

“France Is an Unequal Opportunity Offender: For all the talk of defending the right to blaspheme Mohammed, the French can be extremely hypocritical when it comes to making fun of others

French legal history is choked with cases of bloggers, celebrities, and ordinary folk being dragged through the courts on charges of defamation or hate speech. Worse still, when the ink does flow, it predictably steers clear of powerful sacred cows, while baiting and stifling the usual suspects. If the French don’t learn the lessons of the Paris attacks and fail to confront the free-speech double standards that divide the country today, blood — not ink — will continue to flow.

Barely a day after an estimated 3.7 million people rallied across the country in support of Charlie Hebdo’s right to offend Muslims, French officials embarked on yet another legal effort to protect Jews from hate speech. In an embarrassing display of the complexity of the French free-speech debate, the Paris prosecutor’s office on Monday announced an investigation into a since-deleted Facebook post by controversial comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, in which he proclaimed, “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” (Update: He was arrested and held for questioning in Paris on Wednesday.) The post was a characteristically insidious, Dieudonné-esque play on the now-ubiquitous “Je Suis Charlie” slogan invoking Amédy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed a policewoman on Jan. 8 and died the next day during a standoff in a kosher supermarket that killed four Jewish hostages.

I wrote a few days ago that a lot of the people who declared their support for free expression over the last few days have a rather dismal record on supporting free expression in the past. Basically, a lot of these folks aren’t so much for free expression itself; they just don’t want anyone to interfere with their right to bash Muslims. See also “Happily, President Obama N’est Pas Charlie,” which is in The American Conservative, of all places.

Muslim inhabitants of the Paris suburbs have ample reason to believe that France is far more committed to the defense of free speech which insults them than it is to free speech in the abstract. Charlie Hebdo was free to plaster on newsstands all over Paris vivid cartoon depictions of Mohammed as an eager homosexual bottom, but five years ago when one of its cartoonists wrote an item suggesting that a son of the president was making a good career move by converting to Judaism he was summarily fired and put on trial for “inciting racial hatred.” Literally, put on trial. The country of Voltaire, yup.

OT, but while you’re at The American Conservative read Daniel Larison’s “Romney and the ‘Vindication’ Fantasy.” It’s a hoot.

Going back to “It’s the Occupation, Stupid,” see Conor Friedersdorf’s “Islamophobia Is Not a Myth.” Apparently a lot of righties are arguing that Muslims who don’t engage in terrorism, which is most of them, have nothing to fear from knee-jerk backlashes in reaction to Islamic terrorism. This is absurd on its face; in the past several days how many public figures have proclaimed in mass media that Islam itself is the cause of terrorism? How many American wingnuts have worked themsleves into a fever pitch of hysteria over “sharia law”? Seriously.  In fact, the terrorists are counting on those knee-jerk backlashes to help radicalize the moderates still sitting on the fence. Bill Maher is proof the terrorists are winning, I say.  Friedersdorf writes,

My belief that Muslims are at special risk after a terrorist attack perpetrated by Islamist radicals is grounded in the fact that after the September 11 terrorist attacks, despite a conservative president urging his countrymen to refrain from blaming their Muslim neighbors, hate crimes against Muslim Americans spiked dramatically.

The levels of increased hate were “real” and “measurable.”

My notion that Islamophobia, or irrational fear of mainstream Muslims, is a recognizable feature of post-9/11 America is informed by the several cities that have attempted to stop the construction of mosques, state attempts to ban sharia law as if we’re on the cusp of being ruled by it, fears that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, profiling of Muslim college students for no reason other than their religion, the anti-Muslim training materials that the FBI somehow adopted and used after 9/11, and dozens of Muslims I’ve interviewed who say that other Americans are more fearful of them than was the case prior to the September 11 attacks.

Which is, of course, why America was so easily stampeded into doing al Qaeda’s recruiting work and invading Iraq — that and the clueless wonders who were in charge of policy at the time.

Share
8 Comments

The Results Are In: As Governor, Christie Sucks

-->
Republican Party

The economic recovery being enjoyed by most of the country has bypassed New Jersey.

Twenty-first century New Jersey is a state so disconnected from the national narrative of “recovery” it might as well be its own country. The fact that the major media has ignored this story for so long is a tribute to Governor Christie’s prowess as a great entertainer. Not since the arrival of the Great Pandas from China has the major media been so distracted by sideshow antics.

New Jersey is only one of three states where poverty has gone up according to the latest U.S. Census data. (New Mexico and Washington are the two others.) Back in 2007, 8.6 percent of the state lived below the poverty line. That went up to 9.4 percent in 2009 and in 2013 hit 11.4 percent.

New Jersey was positioned to be in better shape than this. I lived in NJ from 1983 to 2000. It had a healthy mix of industry, lots of corporate headquarters, lots of office operations that had moved from Manhattan to save expenses. A lot of consumer product companies had their product development operations in New Jersey, and there were labs doing more basic scientific research. And, of course, Manhattan is right there. Lots of people work in the City and live in New Jersey, and lots of companies used office space in New Jersey but could still do business in New York.

When Christie took office in 2010, of course the state had been smacked hard by the financial crisis. The population of the state had been shrinking slowly for some time, but before Christie took office this had turned into a regular diaspora. And one of his campaign promises was to stop the flow.

“People are leaving the state in droves, businesses are leaving this state in droves and taking their jobs with them. That’s why we have the worst unemployment rate in 33 years,” Christie charged.

Scroll forward six years, as Gov. Christie is set to give his second state of the state in his second term, and the exodus continues — and for good reason. According to United Van Lines’ annual analysis of national migration data, they booked 4,003 outbound moves from Jersey but posted only 2,169 incoming. 2014 was the fourth time in the last five years that New Jersey topped the nation for out migration according to United Van Lines.

Late last year a Monmouth University/ Asbury Park Press poll found that half of the New Jersey residents surveyed wanted to leave the state more than five years after Christie was first elected. In the survey of 802 adults 54 percent identified the state’s cost of living and tax burden as the primary driver for their desire to relocate.

Even worse, the people who are leaving are the high income earners. Most of the people who are left are ALICEs. Asset Limited, Income Constrained, but Employed. Between ALICEs and the unemployed, about 40 percent of the people of the state are struggling to meet basic living expenses. And while New Jersey is cheaper than Manhattan, and taxes are lower than New York’s (as I remember),  it’s still expensive compared to the rest of the country.

The Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail tunnel that Christie killed would have done the state a lot of good, not only making it easier for New Jersey residents to take jobs in Manhattan but also making it easier for New Yorkers to shop in New Jersey and take advantage of lower sales taxes. As I understand it, with ARC people could have gone directly from midtown to the malls in Secaucus, easy peasy. Now, getting into New Jersey from Manhattan to shop on a Saturday is a major headache. As I noted a few days ago,

The project would have eased overcrowding in Penn Station by building a new rail station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue on the West Side of Manhattan, and it would have generated 5,700 construction jobs and 44,000 permanent jobs, and increased home values in towns that would now have one-seat service to Manhattan, the study noted.

… And keep in mind that New Jersey under Christie has had terrible job growth numbers. Under Christie, New Jersey jobs growth has been among the slowest in the nation. I’m pretty sure New Jersey beats Kansas, but not many other states. Most damning is that New Jersey has lagged way behind all its neighboring states in jobs growth, especially Delaware and New York.

Like a lot of Republican governors Christie had been trying to create jobs by handing out tax break packages to big corporations, to limited results, but as far as manufacturing is concerned NJ can’t compete with the South — too expensive — and the research labs and product development facilities have been drying up as well.  And these are trends that started long before Christie took office, but his administration did zilch to slow the hemorrhage. Surrounding states were hit with similar challenges, but none have failed to meet those challenges as spectacularly as New Jersey.

I remember in the 1990s — remember the Clinton Administration? — McMansions were sprouting in New Jersey like flowers in spring. According to the article, there are so many empty and abandoned properties that in some communities the city government has taken over maintaining lawns and at least making cosmetic repairs to abandoned homes so that entire neighborhoods don’t go to seed.

Way to go, Chris Christie.

Share
8 Comments

More Social Security Warnings

-->
Congress, Social Security

FYI, the Republican who is now chair of the House Budget Committee wants to cut Social Security. Thought you ought to know.

“What I’m hopeful is what the Budget Committee will be able do is to is begin to normalize the discussion and debate about Social Security. This is a program that right now on its current course will not be able to provide 75 or 80 percent of the benefits that individuals have paid into in a relatively short period of time,” he said at a Heritage Action for America event in Washington, D.C., according to AJC. “That’s not a responsible position to say, ‘You don’t need to do anything to do it.’”

Price, whose predecessor Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) never put forward major reform proposals in his otherwise ambitious budgets, offered means-testing and increasing the eligibility age as possibilities. He also hinted at privatizing Social Security.

“All those things ought to be on the table and discussed,” he said.

The only reason the disability  benefits may have to be cut by 20 percent is that the Republicans forced an arbitrary rule to make it difficult to transfer money to the disability fund from the retirement fund even if there is plenty of money in the retirement fund.  And Social Security overall is in decent shape at the moment and is expected to be in decent shape for close to the next 20 years, which gives us plenty of time to make adjustments without cutting benefits.

(Paul Krugman: “Let us reason together: the dire fate we’re supposed to fear is that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled; and in order to avert that fate we must, um, guarantee through immediate action that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled. Yay! Wait, what?”)

But if Dubya before Katrina couldn’t sell privatizing Social Security, I rather doubt it’s salable. Paul Waldman wrote,

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned just in the past couple of days. We all know that both sides are looking for new policy ideas they can present that will demonstrate their commitment to lifting up middle class and poorer Americans, so what’s on offer? Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, has released a plan that includes giving every working American who makes less than six figures a $1,000 tax credit, gives people further tax credits if they save money, limits corporate tax deductions for CEO compensation, and pays for it with a financial transactions tax (presented as a Wall Street “high roller” fee). Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to cut Social Security disability payments.

Heh.

OK, so that’s not entirely fair — Republicans are, in fact, talking about what they can do for less affluent Americans. For instance, Politico reports today that even Mitt Romney has decided that the three pillars of his 2016 campaign will be a “muscular” foreign policy, helping the poor, and supporting the middle class. Which sounds interesting, but at this point it constitutes nothing more than talking about how this is an issue he’s going to be talking about. You have to look pretty hard to find an actual idea Republicans have.

And while they’re figuring that out, it looks like Democrats are going to keep rolling out one policy proposal after another, whether it’s Van Hollen’s tax credit (which other Democrats are also going to be advocating), President Obama’s plan to make community college free, or upcoming pushes on issues like paid family leave and more inclusive overtime rules.

The thing is, though, Dems have to get tough and really talk up each other’s proposals with some aggression, or no one will hear them. And that’s a big if.

Share
8 Comments

Obliviousness Will Be Our Doom

-->
Religion, Terrorism

Earlier today I read a comment saying that Islamic extremism started with the Iranian Revolution of 1979. And of course that’s nonsense. The Iranian Revolution simply marked the point at which Americans noticed Islamic extremism.

I was as oblivious as anybody then. I finished my bachelor’s degree in 1973 and worked for the university for a few years after that, so I was on campus until about 1977. From time to time middle eastern students would mark around with signs denouncing the Shah of Iran and calling for America to stop supporting him. I ignored them. I had started seeing these guys with their signs before we were done with Vietnam, and I thought they should go demonstrate in their own country.

And then came the overthrow of the Shah and the Iranian hostage crisis. This wasn’t the first time violence connected to the region had gotten in our faces, of course. I became aware of the existence of Palestinians when a group of them got eleven Israeli athletes killed during the Munich Olympics. Which, along with being an atrocity, was also one of the worst public relations moves of all time. But I don’t remember that Americans associated Middle Eastern or Asian terrorism with Islam until they’d learned to hate the Ayatollah Khomeini.

But after all these years we still have no clue. I now have some understanding how much of today’s conflicts have their roots in European policies in the region at the end of World War I, and how that damage was compounded by America’s proclivity for propping up unpopular despots who at least were reliably anti-Soviet, like the Shah; and for toppling legitimately elected leaders who displeased us, such as Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh had nationalized his country’s oil industry; he had to go.

Even our recent colossal screw-ups don’t seem to register as a cause of discontent. Invasion of Iraq? Abu Ghraib? Hello? Nah — it must be their religion.

I’ve been reading Karen Armstrong’s new book Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. She argues for something that I touched on my in book, Rethinking Religion. And that is that most of the time, the primary cause of “religious” violence isn’t religion, but something else that has caused fear and anger and a desire for violent action. And then the angry, fearful people get out their scriptures and look for Holy Permission to do what they want, usually accepting only those passages that could be interpreted to support their positions and ignoring those that don’t.

Most of the time, I argue, religion is not the cause of group violence but can act as an accelerant, allowing qualms and inhibitions to drop away. I think it can be argued that when an angry mob or violent movement persuades itself that God condones their violence, they might very well be more violent than they would have been. However, that doesn’t mean that if the religion factor were removed the violence wouldn’t have happened at all.

But what if the other factors were removed and just religion were left? Looking at all the religious violence in the world today and in history, I propose that religion alone doesn’t cause people to be violent. Religion has to be combined with something else, such as a deeply felt grievance. That grievance may have little or nothing to do with religion. And people of the Middle East have plenty of reasons to be aggrieved.

However, once an extremist religious movement has formed, attacking them, meeting anger with anger and violence with violence, just feeds it. It becomes more extremist; it attracts new recruits. Plus once the violence starts there are other groups of violent, angry people who want revenge. And if they can persuade themselves that their enemies have no cause for grievance and are just violent because they are crazy whackjob  religious fanatics, scorched earth retribution becomes more palatable.

See how that works?

 

Share
15 Comments

Free Speech Hypocrites

-->
conservatism, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Does anyone else remember the Chocolate Jesus? Back in 2007 the artist Cosimo Cavallaro sculpted a crucified Jesus out of 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and the piece was displayed in a Manhattan gallery. There was a huge hue and cry about it, mostly because Cavallaro left out a loincloth. You might remember that Little Lulu threw a fit over this affront to Christianity (Jesus had a weenie? Who knew?), and the sculpture was removed.

It seemed obvious to me that the nudity was not just for shock value but added to the poignancy and vulnerability of the image of the crucified Christ, and the medium was a powerful statement on the commercialization — and trivialization — of Easter. But American righties argued that in the U.S. only satire poking at Christianity is allowed, but that satire of, say, Islam is not, and that’s not fair.

And I say satire by definition requires that the target be something that is established, powerful and privileged.  Ridicule of a relatively powerless minority group, which Islam is in the West, is not satire, but “bullying.” See also “When Operas Attack,” and don’t forget the many efforts by the American Right to shut down performances of Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi.  Yes, in the U.S. the Left tends to push back against expressions of racism and sexism, but the Right has a long record of attempting to shut down genuine artistic expression that it finds offensive.

I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo before this week, and I only know it from the cover images and cartoons that have been reproduced on the Web. (Oddly, if you go to the Charlie Hebdo site now you can’t get to the back issues but can see only a “Je suis Charlie” statement. Keeping the content available would have been gutsier.) But what I’ve seen reminds me of the old underground comix that were popular in the 1960s counterculture — a lot of vulgarity and shock for the sake of shock. Which is not necessarily bad; some of those comix were brilliant, as I remember. And who didn’t love Mr. Natural?

But what happened to them? The 1970s happened, and then the 1980s. The country got more conservative. IMO it wasn’t primarily “political correctness” that killed them, as Alice Robb claims, but prudery.

It’s interesting to me that one of the few people to recognize the Right’s hypocrisy is Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, one of the people who led the charge against the Chocolate Jesus. Donohue is opposed to free expression, but at least he’s consistent about it and not calling for a different standard for different religions.

As a people, we’re either for freedom of expression, or we’re not. If we’re only in favor of allowing expression with which we agree, we’re not.

Update: One of the best responses to the Paris massacre I’ve seen so far.

Share
15 Comments

Little Love for the NYPD

-->
Obama Administration

The New York Times gave editorial space to an NYPD officer who wrote “Why We’re So Mad at de Blasio.” Somehow he managed to blow the opportunity and not provide a reason. The interesting thing are the comments — 1,198 as I write this — which overwhelmingly support Mayor de Blasio. I know it’s not a scientific poll, but if the NYPD are paying attention it might be a shock to them.

Share
13 Comments

It Wasn’t About the Cartoons

-->
Europe, Terrorism

Juan Cole has a must-read analysis of the Paris massacre that unfortunately will not be read by the people who need to read it.

The horrific murder of the editor, cartoonists and other staff of the irreverent satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, along with two policemen, by terrorists in Paris was in my view a strategic strike, aiming at polarizing the French and European public.

The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. Most Muslims are not even interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world (ex-Soviet ethnic Muslims often also have low rates of belief and observance). Many Muslim immigrants in the post-war period to France came as laborers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such as rap and rai. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination.

Do read the whole thing. Juan Cole also writes that the perps were radicalized by Bush’s Iraq War and the Abu Ghraib torture.

Without Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is not at all clear that Sharif Kouachi would have gotten involved in fundamentalist vigilanteism. And if he hadn’t, he would not have gone on to be a point man in murdering out the staff of Charlie Hebdo along with two policemen.

Iraq is a major Arab, Muslim country. Its capital, Baghdad, is special to Sunni Muslims because the Abbasid empire built it and ruled from it. Having American troops occupy it for 8 years, humiliate its citizens, shoot people at checkpoints, and torture people in military prisons was a very bad idea. Some people treated that way become touchy, and feel put down, and won’t take slights to their culture and civilization any longer. Maybe the staff at Charlie Hebdo would be alive if George W. Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney hadn’t modeled for the Kouashi brothers how you take what you want and rub out people who get in your way.

That last part is supposition, but it’s well-informed supposition. Just as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 triggered a massively wrong-footed reaction that served the cause of al Qaeda a lot more than it did national security, the Paris massacre was designed to cause a massively wrong-footed reaction that could radicalize Muslims in Europe. But you’ll never get a true Islamophobe to admit, or even see, that he’s being played.

See also “Muslims Around the World Condemn the Charlie Hebdo Attack” and “‘Religious Violence’ Isn’t Just Religious.”

Share
7 Comments

New Congress So Far (Be Afraid)

-->
Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party

This is just the stuff that happened yesterday.

The House passed its “dynamic scoring” bill directing the Congressional Budget Office to lie about the real effects of legislation on the budget. See also Jonathan Chait, “Why the Republican Congress’s First Act Was to Declare War on Math.”

This story provides a clue why the Republicans are determined to take the CBO in hand and dictate what conclusions it will reach:

One of the House Republican leadership’s first bills of the new Congress will add some $53 billion to the deficit and cost hundreds of thousands of Americans health insurance, according to a new report by Congress’ non-partisan budget office.

The bill, the Save American Workers Act, aims to redefine the number of hours that people work each week before their employers fall under the Affordable Care Act, raising the threshold from 30 hours to 40. Under current law, larger firms that don’t provide health insurance for people who work more than 30 hours will be fined. The bill would raise the fine threshold to 40 hours.

Republicans argue that by requiring companies to provide health benefits to anyone who works more than 30 hours, the Affordable Care Act creates an incentive for employers to cut hours to less than 30. Analysts say there is no evidence of that alleged trend, however, and a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that involuntary part-time work has actually fallen since the peak of the recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The Congressional Budget Office “score” of the bill released Wednesday suggested the shift proposed by the bill could actually worsen the healthcare situation, even as it raises costs to taxpayers.

Republicans can’t have the CBO saying things like that, can they?

Two House Republicans introduced a national 20-week abortion ban. Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said that 20 weeks is “very late term.” Huh? A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. Even I can calculate that 20 weeks is the mid point, not “very late.”  Also, too:

Franks compared late abortions to torture in a statement released with the bill.

“More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America,” Franks said Tuesday.

“These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia.”

I don’t know about the number of abortions at 20 weeks or later in the U.S., but at this time it’s the broad consensus of medical science that a fetus at 20 weeks gestation lacks the nervous system apparatus required to feel pain (see “Navigating the Junk Science of Fetal Pain“).  And no infant born at 20 weeks gestation has ever survived outside the womb in recorded history. The threshold of viability currently is between 22 and 25 weeks, and at the very early end of that a fetus is so impaired that most of the time palliative care only is recommended.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. See Teresa Tritch in the New York Times: “Uh Oh, Republicans Are Trying to ‘Protect’ Social Security Again.”

Buried in the new rules being adopted by the House Republican majority for the current session of Congress is one that the drafters say will “protect” Social Security retirement benefits from being raided to pay for Social Security disability benefits. What this boils down to is using a misleading argument to tee up benefit cuts.

You can read the article for details, but basically the GOP is “fixing” something that ain’t broke. Michael Hiltzik writes at the Los Angeles Times that their “fix” prohibits reallocating money from the retirement fund into the disability fund without  “benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds.” But there was no reason to do that; the disability allocations were not putting the retirement fund in jeopardy. But if this goes through, Hiltzik says, the most likely outcome will be that disability benefits will be cut by 20 percent sometime next year.

It begins.

Share
16 Comments
« Older Posts
Newer Posts »


    About this blog



    About Maha
    Comment Policy

    Vintage Mahablog
    Email Me


















    Support This Site







    eXTReMe Tracker













      Technorati Profile